The Search for Authenticity in Social Networks

Topics: Social Media

What is the difference between what someone says, and what they really think? According to new social network Pencourage, a lot:

about pencourage

Their About page is a fascinating scroll through what is presented as a new type of truly authentic social network. Instead of having to show your best face via a public persona under your own name, you can now show “every aspect of your life as it really is” via Pencourage.

Let’s muse upon that concept for a second:

1. Are you really showing every aspect of your life as it really is, if you aren’t disclosing your real identity on Pencourage?

Yes and no. The idea is with Pencourage is that by removing certain identifying factors, you will be more free to share the real you. How ironic is that? Very! But here’s the thing: when I found myself completing my profile, I started to write the truth. While my Facebook page (attempts to) present myself in the best light possible, the About statement on my Pencourage page is definitely the real me, the good and bad, the fab and the drab about my actual life.

None of this really hit home until I started to complete my Pencourage profile…. and damn if I didn’t start to write the truth. This is exactly what they hope to encourage. Look at your profile settings: you don’t have to disclose anything if you don’t want to!

pencourage-journal-settings

Conversely, this means that you can also feel comfortable disclosing anything you really do want to in your Pencourage Journal. You’re “pencouraged” to write what you’re really feeling about in your heart, and going through in your life:

pencourage-journal-entries

2. Similarly, when we do disclose our real identities on Facebook, do we really show every aspect of our life as it really is?

Same answer: Yes and no. Let’s face it: I’m friends with people on Facebook that I have business relationships with, but not personal ones. I can’t just let it all hang out. On the occasions when I do, I find myself encountering humor and encouragement, as well as backlash or ridicule.

Recently, I posted something about abortion on Facebook. It let to me having to actually block someone because they kept endlessly ranting on my page. Granted, that could also happen on Pencourage, but I can’t imagine it would be nearly as violating of an experience. Because no one would really know who I was, and the enraged, public diss that this person accorded me would no longer be as “public”.

I also have friends who post adorable photos of their children (ostensibly taken moments ago), when I happen to also know that the child in question was actually vomiting all over them an hour earlier. Sure, this is funny, but it’s also worth noting that we all are pretty much guilty of selectively crafting our Facebook personas. I certainly am as well, no doubt about it.

I posted this photo of myself once to Facebook. It’s gone now. Why? Because even though this shows part of the real me, and I can make a fantabulously horrrrible monster face, it ended up coming back to haunt me. I was afraid it made me look immature/unprofessional/crazy/ you name it. And that’s really too bad.

monster-face-sarah

The people who really know me as I really am can appreciate this photo. My hugely elastic monster face has always been a source of hilarity, in particular for the many children that I used to babysit for growing up.

Why are we so scared to be our monster-face selves on Facebook? Well, it’s not just about Facebook, it’s about being authentic about our lives in general. It’s about self-acceptance.

However, it’s also about your network. Being friends with a larger network of people, I also have to keep some things private. It needs to be appropriate. I can’t really let my boss or my mother-in-law find out how insane I am, for example. The people that I went to high school with also must continually be in awe of how jaw-droppingly awesome I am now compared to what a nerd I was in high school. Google+ has attempted to solve some of this overlap with with their circles of people, but adoption has been slow. Very slow.

While there is endless potential for crafting selective or even false personas on social networks, I do however think that Pencourage has, as their name implies, done a good job in encouraging HONESTY. Pencourage has demonstrated that honesty can exist independently of transparency. There’s not much incentive to create a Pencourage profile that makes you “look” good (who cares? no one actually knows who you are), as to create one that will facilitate honest, meaningful, and heartfelt interaction.

I could debate this endlessly. I don’t know what the answer is. In fact, I think I may have even lost the thread of this blog post. I’m off on a tangent. But you know what I like about it? I’m being honest and candid instead of Ms. Buttoned-Up SEO Professional, and maybe, just maybe, showing you a little bit more real. I don’t think I’d be worth my salt as a social media marketer if I couldn’t do that.

yo

Photo on 3-13-13 at 3.03 PM. Taken While Writing This Blog Post.

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